KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney celebrated the achievements of its students and student organizations during an awards ceremony Wednesday evening.
Applauding Excellence, sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement and Division of Student Affairs, highlights the exceptional work of student leaders and organizations on campus, as well as their advisers.
Established in 2012, the awards are presented to honorees nominated by UNK students, staff or faculty.
This year’s recipients, with comments from the awards presentation, are:
Nester Student Leadership Awards
This award recognizes outstanding seniors who have excelled academically and demonstrated service, character and leadership during their careers at UNK.
Taylor Janicek of Bridgeport – Student body vice president (2018-19), Order of Omega Honor Society, Chancellor’s Leadership Class, Alpha Omicron Pi’s Price of Pi, Phi Delta Theta Involvement Award, Chancellor’s Scholarship
Logan Krejdl of Aurora – Dean’s list, student body president (2018-19), homecoming king (2017), Pike Gentleman of the Year (2017), Pike Campus Involvement Award (2016-18), founder of FIRST Leaders
Katherine Anielak of Bennington – Dean’s list, research featured in UNK Undergraduate Research Journal, Gene Hamaker Scholarship, Thomas Buecker Memorial Scholarship, Selling Memorial Scholarship, UNK Study Abroad UN Fund Scholarship, Honors Foundation Study Abroad Scholarship, Taukio College Alumni Association Scholarship, Chung Ang University Global A Scholarship, Board of Regents Scholarship, Phi Alpha Theta Grant, UNK History Department Outstanding Graduate
Ryan Clark of Kearney – Dean’s list, College of Business and Technology Outstanding Junior, Mortar Board, Order of Omega, Kappa Mu Epsilon mathematics honor society, Beta Gamma Sigma honor society, Phi Eta Sigma freshman honor society
Katherine Benner of Central City – Dean’s list, College of Business and Technology Outstanding Graduate (spring 2019), UNK Alumni Association Outstanding Senior Award (spring 2019), Alpha Omicron Pi Woman of AOPi (2019), Alpha Omicron Pi Outstanding Leaders’ Council Office Award (2016), Applauding Excellence Emerging Leader Award (2017)
Josie Parr of Hastings – Dean’s list, Mortar Board recognition, Honors Program banquet speaker
Riley Pulver of Kenesaw – Dean’s list, Board of Regents Scholarship, Honors Program Endowed Scholarship, Continuing Student Scholarship
Riley Ostdiek of Grand Island – Dean’s list, Biochemistry Student of the Year (2017-18), Honors Program banquet speaker, Sigma Phi Epsilon Diligence Award (2017), Sound Mind Award (2018) and Virtue Award (2019)
Maaika Mestl of Ogallala – Dean’s list, Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar Team (2017-18), Kappa Delta Pi, MIAA Academic Honor Roll (2016-17), MIAA Excellence Award (2016-17)
UNK Alumni Association Outstanding Senior Awards
These students have demonstrated excellence in scholarship and leadership, as well as involvement in and dedication to the UNK campus and Kearney community.
Katherine Benner of Central City will receive her degree in interior design with a minor in construction management. She has accepted a position with CMBA Architects in Grand Island, where she completed an internship.
Benner served as president of the UNK Panhellenic Council, was selected as a New Student Enrollment leader, gave tours as a Student Diplomat and participated in undergraduate research. She was active in her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi, serving as new member educator, assistant treasurer and in various recruitment positions. Benner was also a member of Order of Omega and the Mortar Board and Phi Eta Sigma academic honor societies.
Tyan Boyer of Plainview will graduate with a degree in exercise science with a health sciences minor. He has been accepted into the University of Nebraska Medical Center physical therapy program in Kearney.
Boyer was president of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, vice president of the Exercise Science Club and a member of the Organized Research and Creative Activities Club and UNK Honors Program. He presented undergraduate research at UNK and the Nebraska Academy of Sciences and completed an internship with the Rural Futures Institute. Boyer also volunteered for several organizations, including Campus Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity and youth wrestling programs.
Cannon Marchand of Kearney will graduate with a degree in history and a minor in military science. After graduation, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Nebraska Army National Guard as a transportation officer and will lead a truck platoon in the 195th (Special Operations) (Airborne) Forward Support Company.
Marchand was a UNK Undergraduate Research Fellows program member with research in military history and World War II. He was vice president of Phi Alpha Theta, a resident assistant and member of the Army ROTC Prairie Ranger Club. Marchand received the Daughters of the Founders and Patriots of America award for excellence in military history and the Military Order of the Purple Heart National Leadership award.
Paula Zakrzewski of O’Neill will receive her degree in exercise science with a minor in nutrition. She will attend chiropractic school in Kansas City after graduation.
Zakrzewski has completed five scholarly presentations and a research project for exercise science since 2017. She was a member of the Honors Program, served as an Honors Program mentor and coordinator for the Catholic Newman Center and interned at CHI Health Good Samaritan in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.
Leadership Legacy Award
Ashley Shaffer of Plainview
“Ashley is a proven leader among her peers and someone to go to for advice in tough times. She made an impact during her time serving on the National Residence Hall Honorary Executive Board and spearheaded multiple events, including a project that raised money for the local animal shelter.”
Emerging Leader Award
Reid Bednar of Grand Island
“Reid co-leads a freshman group at Christian Student Fellowship with 25-30 students every Thursday. He is passionate about everyone on campus and continues to find new ideas to engage others. At one Thursday night session, he visited dorm rooms on campus and offered students candy and took out their trash. Reid also volunteers off campus at the Salvation Army and Jubilee Center.”
Student Employee of the Year
Cy Cannon of Silver Creek – UNK Communications and Marketing
“Cy goes above and beyond to deliver quality work and is a natural leader. He helps fellow student workers and manages projects from concept to creation. For example, he worked with community members to produce a number of social media advertisements for the Kearney Cultural Partners campaign. The Communications and Marketing Department appreciates and values his input so much that he was asked to be a student representative on the department’s brand advisory council, which is working to develop the next UNK brand and marketing campaign. Cy is a high-achieving individual who would do anything to help UNK succeed.”
Student Employee Rookie of the Year
Francella Wiles of Plattsmouth – Office of International Education
“In less than a year, Francella has become a dependable and important member of the department. She has made a significant impact in the office by volunteering her time to assist with social media, emails and general support, including when she helped organize a Nebraska International Educators meeting on campus. It is a great feeling knowing she can be given jobs and they will be completed in a timely and accurate manner.”
Unsung Hero Award
Nickolas Schultz of St. Paul – Locke and Key Society
“Nick is an overall hard worker who is dedicated to the success of this group. He has gone above and beyond to learn the ropes as an organizational leader and is humble and willing to help when necessary. Nick helped plan the organization’s first independent cleanup event last fall. He is a model citizen and terrific UNK representative.”
Outstanding Student Organization
“Enactus members create their own projects and events that give back to others and provide unique opportunities. These students truly embody what it means to be a Loper and showcase the potential of our graduates in the business community. This team hosts the Cupcake Extravaganza each February and partnered with the Office of International Education to offer a half-day event for international students. They also host the annual New Venture Adventure entrepreneurship event for area high schoolers.”
New Student Organization of the Year
“Define American was established in fall 2018 after students identified a need for an organization that creates conversation surrounding the contributions of immigrants and their intersectional identities. This organization is a student-led initiative to raise awareness of the changing narrative about immigrants and their connection to the UNK campus. Members hope to use the power of our intersectional stories to create change and make the United States a more welcoming nation.”
Outstanding Student Organization Adviser
Luis Olivas – Define American
“Luis goes above and beyond what is required for his students. As a new organization, the students have hopes and dreams. Rather than discouraging the students from accomplishing their goals, he puts in extra hours and does the research to make their dreams happen. He created a resource stand in the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, launched a new scholarship for first-generation students and coordinated a naturalization ceremony hosted at UNK.”
Community Service Program of the Year
Gamma Phi Beta
“Gamma Phi Beta has a philanthropic motto to encourage and build strong girls. The sorority’s international philanthropic partner is Girls on the Run, a nonprofit program for girls to accomplish goals and build self-confidence. Gamma Phi Beta also partnered with McKenna’s Rae of Hope Foundation and the S.A.F.E. Center on local projects. Last year, members dedicated more than 2,000 service hours to the Kearney community.”
Diversity Program of the Year
Black Student Association – Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance
“UNK’s Black Student Association hosted a remembrance event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in January. They brought in nationally known speaker Theo E.J. Wilson to discuss his experience with race and politics. The event also brought members of the campus together for an open forum to discuss modern issues.”
Outstanding Collaborative Program
UNK Psychology Club, Student Health and Counseling, health sciences, counseling and psychology
“These groups collaborated with Region 3 Behavioral Health Services of Kearney to provide a daylong mental health first-aid program for 41 UNK undergraduate and graduate students. This training allowed students to engage with professionals and establish networks for potential jobs and experiences.”
Outstanding Student Organization Leader
Erin Green of Lexington – Locke and Key Society
“Under Erin’s leadership, Locke and Key raised funds for the Nebraska AIDS Project through charitable events and planned numerous talks covering current political issues that impact the lives of Nebraskans. You may also know this recipient through ‘Lopers Come in All Colors’ posters featured around campus.”
Student Supervisor of the Year
Aliese Hoffman – Brewed Awakening
“Aliese helps interview and hire employees for the student-run coffee shop on campus. She also helps students vet new business partners and wholesalers. Employees often seek her advice when they have a challenge, as she is very easy to talk to. Aliese is a clear leader for UNK. She has been involved with Leadership UNK, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development and different activities in the College of Business and Technology, all while finishing her master’s degree in student affairs. She is an excellent mentor to student employees.”
Greek Man of the Year
Taylor Janicek of Bridgeport – Phi Delta Theta
“Taylor exemplifies what it means to be a leader. He has held numerous leadership positions within the Phi Delta Theta chapter and served as student body vice president. Taylor would do anything for his friends and brothers. He has a passion for the fraternity and sorority community and will continue that passion as he pursues a graduate degree.”
Greek Woman of the Year
Katherine Benner of Central City – Alpha Omicron Pi
“Katie has shown passion and dedication to her sorority and the Greek life community. She promotes leadership development, scholarship and community service, and enriches the lives of those around her. She has held numerous leadership positions, including president of UNK’s Panhellenic Council. Katie embodies what a sorority woman should be; someone who is humble and kind and lives out her chapter ritual in her everyday life.”
Living the Ritual Award
Paige Kristensen of Minden – Alpha Phi
“Paige exemplifies the entire fraternity and sorority life community. She represents the values and principles of Alpha Phi and challenges chapter and community members to do the same. She is known for encouraging others to take leadership roles to better the entire Greek community. Paige will drop everything to bring soup to a girl who is sick, or write kind, anonymous notes and words to a struggling friend. She is the first to respond when someone asks for any kind of help, and she does it all with a joke and a throw of her lopes.”
The following students completed four semesters in the UNK LEADS leadership program:
Marissa Asche of Hebron
Leslie Braun of Henderson
Cheyanne Diessner of Aurora
Lauren Parde of Adams
Britley Schlueter of Wood Lake
Kaitlyn Pineda of Kearney